IMSA: Action Express dominates Indy; Hawksworth wins on debut

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Up front, Action Express Racing dominated the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Brickyard Grand Prix for its second win of the season. Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi delivered in the No. 5 Corvette DP, leading a podium sweep by Daytona Prototype machinery in the Prototype class.

Fittipaldi’s start helped get the No. 5 in lead position and from there both he and Barbosa were able to control the race. Barbosa survived a late fuel scare and was able to cruise home by some 48-plus seconds over the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates  Ford EcoBoost Riley of Scott Pruett and Sage Karam. Karam turned in an impressive stint in a fill-in role for Memo Rojas. Spirit of Daytona’s Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook (No. 90 Corvette DP) were third.

In Prototype Challenge, Jack Hawksworth turned in an incredible debut effort as he reeled in, then passed, his RSR teammate Bruno Junqueira for the class victory. Hawksworth, who’d never driven a sports car race previously and was filling in for the suspended Alex Tagliani, caught and passed Junqueira in the final five minutes to deliver the win for the No. 08 entry, co-driven by Chris Cumming. Junqueira and teammate Duncan Ende were second in the No.09.

The GT classes were less eventful with SRT Motorsports’ No. 93 Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R of Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer (GT Le Mans) and Scuderia Corsa’s No. 63 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Westphal (GT Daytona) scored their wins.

The Viper seized the opportunity after the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy and Richard Lietz, which dominated, fell victim to an engine failure. A late-race pit stop took another GTD Ferrari, the No. 555 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, from the lead to fourth.

After a caution-free race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park two weeks ago, the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway featured a caution-heavy first hour before the final one hour and 45 minutes ran nearly without yellow flag interruptions.

The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship returns to action at Elkhart Lake’s Road America on August 10.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field in 2015 with Marco Andretti, who finished ninth after another top-10 season in points.

Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 5th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 23 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 60 Laps Led, 11.5 Avg. Start, 9.1 Avg. Finish

It was a dependable, quiet but usually consistent season from Marco Andretti, who up until the final quarter of the season had actually been his father’s most reliable finisher.

Andretti didn’t necessarily have a ton of standout drives but he was usually there or thereabouts, and by the end of the day he was often at the low ends of the top-10, which earlier this year given the at-times troublesome Honda aero kit package on road and street courses was more of an accomplishment than you’d think. Three top-10 results in the first four races was proof positive of that.

As ever Andretti excelled most on the big ovals. Sixth at the Indianapolis 500 was as good as was possible given the lack of top-end speed; similarly, he probably could have emerged at the head of the field at Fontana, ending third when all was said and done.

His best result was second in the rain at Detroit race one, although coming second to teammate Carlos Munoz had to sting a little bit. Andretti had driven well that race, and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with his first win in four years.

The thing that would have been his standout stat of the year, finishing every lap, game unglued with an odd accident on home soil in Pocono. It was a shame to see because Andretti was typically good, if not great, for yet another season.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver lineup in the Verizon IndyCar Series, after the 2015 season, with eighth-placed Tony Kanaan.

Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 7th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 407 Laps Led, 9.2 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 8th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 213 Laps Led, 7.6 Avg Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish

You have to give TK credit. Armed with one of the best cars on the grid, Kanaan has certainly raised his game the last two years, and probably hasn’t received enough credit or enough results for some of his drives he’s put in since joining Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2013 season.

The 2015 season was no exception. All 10 of his top-10 finishes were between second and seventh, so there were plenty of times he was in win and podium contention. The other area where he improved was his qualifying. Kanaan only had two starts outside the top-12 all season, one of which occurred at Detroit race two, where the grid was set by points following a rain cancellation. Detroit was pretty much the only weekend where Kanaan didn’t figure into qualifying or the race. Blame the Taylor Swift-inspired Big Machine Records livery for that one if you want.

Accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and Pocono were costly retirements as Kanaan definitely had a shot to win both those races. But realistically you couldn’t find many other faults. Losing a sure win at Iowa due to a mechanical issue was a gutting blow. He was also unlucky to come up just shy at Fontana, and may have prevailed in a last-lap shootout.

More often that not however, Kanaan was firmly on top of his game, and reliably on par with his championship-winning teammate Scott Dixon, which was all you could ask for. It’s fitting the two of them opened the year as part of the winning lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kanaan then helping out matters by finishing ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, to ensure Dixon had enough points to win the title on countback.